Article by Bob Estrin

Amazon has requested that the seller prove their items are handmade without getting stuck

Southwest Cactus Hands

I have had this happen to me and will give some steps or advice from my own experience and from what other sellers have said. While this is an unpleasant and stressful experience to go through, the chances are that if you give Amazon the specific information they are looking for, you will be approved to continue selling in the Handmade department.

I believe that almost all handmade sellers who put in an appeal and do not give up with further appeals as needed, eventually get the approval of their appeals. Even if Amazon gets to the point in which they deactivated all of your handmade listings, just review carefully what Amazon said in their last email, adjust and send in another appeal.

Why am I getting this performance notification?

Well hopefully, this is the least read article I have ever written. If you run into this issue, this article may be able to assist you in satisfying Amazon's needs and accept your appeal on the first try.

I have heard reports from others that they are doing these checks on sellers selling in the handmade category randomly, but if true, I am not sure if that is the right approach for handmade. Amazon is either doing these checks to verify that a large number of handmade sellers are selling handmade items or Amazon is really stating that they suspect the seller of fraud and Amazon does not feel any requirement to show reason/evidence for that fraud to the seller. If this is Amazon's way of finding sellers who sell non-handmade items in the handmade category by selecting sellers randomly, I feel that they could find a better approach.

All I can say is that if you are chosen for this performance review handmade verification, you are not alone and you are part of a group of many other quality handmade sellers selling handmade items.

It is possible that having to go thru a performance review could be related to other issues to the account and the seller can check the Account Health page for any recent issues. It even could be that another seller reported that you do not sell handmade items. It could also just be a badly written Bot selecting sellers for a performance review due to unknown reasons. Amazon will never let you know why they are sending you this performance notification which may not be fair but is the Amazon way.

The bottom line is the seller needs to get over this unfair accusation and give Amazon what it needs to hear based on the specific requirements given in the email that was sent. Amazon wants the seller to pass this performance review. If you give Amazon the information they specifically ask for, they can check those requirements off of their checklist and send you a notification that they accept your appeal.

As an optional extra precaution, you may want to take just a few minutes and go into the Inventory Reports menu and run the Category Listings report and save the report spreadsheet off of Amazon on your home computer drive. This report holds most of your item information in case it is needed later to sell your items on the Amazon marketplace or other selling platforms. This report makes a good general backup of your current item listings and it is good to run once in a while anyways. The 'Category Listing report' shows up in the Inventory Reports menu for seven days after you request it from Amazon. You can read how to request this report here Request category listing report / Bulk Upload Instructions.

Can I prepare in advance in case I get this notification at a future date?

Another seller suggested that if you travel a lot, you may want to have some photos of your studio work area or other photos as requested by Amazon already prepared. You can have these photos available to access from the road by placing them and a list of any ASINs in those photos in an email to yourself. This could be in case you are not at home such as on a vacation when you get this notification from Amazon and it would be difficult to get a good appeal response to Amazon within the first 5 days.

The 3 or 4 photos would have to have a business card, company logo, or company name already physically in the photos as required by Amazon. While I would recommend that you include a product in a photo that Amazon had listed as an ASIN at the beginning of the sent notification in one of the photos, it is probably not required.

You can also do a short video in advance and save it with a size under 15Mb using video compression software.

I do not feel that this extra step is really needed unless you feel you want to or are away from your studio a lot on extended trips. Preparing your photos and questions in advance could come in handy in case the Amazon request comes at a busy time such as the fourth quarter or you just want to have your responce ready so you do not need to be stressed out when it does arrive.

Is this performance notification real and from Amazon?

This is a concern but can easily be determined by going to Seller Central and selecting the menu option called 'Performance notification'. Look for the same email message and if you find it then it was a legitimate Amazon notification message that needs to be resolved. If you cannot locate the same email on the Amazon system, I would call Amazon handmade seller support and ask them about the email.

You can use this same 'Performance notification' message area to check for future messages such as Amazon has further questions or that the appeal has been accepted.

One issue is that the seller receives an email to their personal email system and on the main Seller Central screen, no special flagged warning message displays prompting the seller to review your performance notifications. This could be an issue if you happened to not see the Amazon email previously sent to your regular email. If you have only 5 days to respond and you did not know about the situation, that could cause some problems.

Did the message look like this? This is the email message that I received from Amazon.

Hello Maker,

During a recent review of products offered in the Amazon Handmade store, we determined that you may not be meeting the requirements of selling in the Handmade category. See the Resources section at the bottom of this message if you have questions about our policies that led to this determination.

Here is an example: ASIN: (ASINs listed here)

What actions do I need to take?
Within 5 days, please send the following information to:
1) A detailed description of the production processes used to create the items you have listed in the Handmade category.
2) What production methods are used and the specific process steps to create your items?
-- What is your design process?
-- Where are your items crafted?
-- Are you crafting the items you sell by yourself, or with others? If with others, how many people are involved? What are they responsible for? Are they family and friends that are not being paid, employees that receive a regular paycheck from you, or contractors that are responsible for some of the production? If they are contractors, what percentage of the production are they responsible for?
-- How long does it take to create an item, after it has been designed?
-- What is the final product you are creating?
3) The number of items you can produce in a week.
4) Three to five photos or videos that show the production process for items you intend to list. Please note that we cannot accept links to photos or videos stored in personal cloud storage sites such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive.
-- Each photo or video must clearly display your business card or feature your business name or logo. For example, in the background or on an envelope, so that we can verify image authenticity. Digital watermarks or logos will not be accepted.
-- The photos or videos must be of items that you currently have listed and you must note the ASINs of those items.
5) Any additional details you would like us to know to better understand your business or craft.

We will review your information and may request additional details and respond with a decision as soon as possible.

What happens to my Amazon selling account?
If you choose not to respond to our request, or choose not to provide all of the information being requested, your Amazon selling account will continue to remain active, however, you will not be able to sell in the Handmade category. Additionally:
-- Your Handmade listings will become Inactive and will need to be re-listed outside of the Handmade category. There is no impact to your listings outside of Handmade.
-- You will lose any existing product and seller reviews, Q&As, and so on, for your Handmade listings.
-- Your Maker profile will be deleted.
-- The waiver of the $39.99 monthly professional-selling fee will be removed and you will begin seeing this fee charged to your account on your next billing cycle. You can consider downgrading your account to an Individual selling plan to avoid a monthly fee.

-- If you have questions about policies that led to our decision, please see our Welcome to Amazon Handmade help topic, which contains information on both program and product eligibility, with links to additional information on our program:
-- While your listing may not comply with Amazon Handmade policies, you may be able to list your items in a non-Handmade category from the Add a Product page:
-- For details on the differences between our Professional and Individual selling plans, see our Selling Plan comparison topic:
-- For details on how to downgrade your account to an Individual selling plan, search Seller Central help for 'downgrade'.

We're here to help:
If you have questions about this policy or about your account, please contact our Handmade Support team via the Contact Us form in Seller Central:
We appreciate your support and thank you for selling on Amazon Handmade.

Handmade Integrity Team

What are my next steps to take?

Your step may vary, but here are steps to consider.

1. Verify that the email was from Amazon by checking for the same email by going to the Seller Central menu option 'Performance reviews'.

2. Check on how many days you have left to respond. If you did not read the email right away, you may not have the full five days to respond. I would take the needed time to be able to respond by the deadline. If Amazon does not approve your first response, they will let you know and give you additional time to respond.

It is difficult to predict how many hours the appeal may take to write, but it may be a lot longer than you originally estimated it will take. I would think the appeal will take at least 4 - 8 hours to prepare. Adding a video when you are not familiar with videos or video compression will add additional time. Additionally, more time will be required if you have to send in another appeal if the first one was not accepted. This is a serious request from Amazon that can have some issues with you selling in the handmade category if it is not handled to Amazon's requirements. I do not recommend that you start the appeal on the last day of the deadline.

If your first response is not accepted, read very carefully what they say in response. Amazon does not always come out directly and tell you what they did not like or what was missing, so you have to figure it out and then respond again with another appeal. In my case, it was that I was missing a business card/logo/company name in one or two of my photos and I did not meet the requirements of 3-5 qualifying photos/videos.

This type of notification is serious and could end up with the seller not being able to sell handmade items and then being restricted to sell your handmade items in the non-handmade marketplace categories. If you are busy with other things such as making products, you may want to place your store on Vacation Mode to free up time to respond. This response may take a lot more time than you originally thought it would.

3. The other sellers, as well as myself, received some specific ASINs listed at the beginning of the email. I would very carefully check to make sure everything is correct in all fields relating to those ASINs listing and make sure they are working and the customer can use them to purchase the item. Amazon may just be entering a random ASIN since that may be a requirement of theirs to send the notification to you or they may have selected the ASINs for a specific reason that may have nothing to do with if those specific ASINs are handmade or not.

Make any correction changes to the listing when needed before sending in the appeal email. Just because a product has not had any previous issues with Amazon and is selling well does not mean that everything in the ASIN listing is correct to Amazon. Check all fields but carefully review the title, description, bullet points, search terms, and if the first photo has a white background.

For all ASINs listed by Amazon in the notification, I would call up each item in edit mode and save it even if you did not make any changes. This will send that items information though the Amazon edit checks and verify any new requirements such as white background, bullet points and search terms are valid.

If you have the option to use one or more of the ASINs specifically listed by Amazon in your photos or videos, that may be best but may not be required.

Beyond the ASINs that Amazon listed, you optionally may also want to review a random sample number of your items to check for any issues. Do a search of any search suppressed items, incomplete or inactive items, and correct as needed.

4. Avoid Common problem areas that I and other sellers that had responded had. You can avoid these same issues by carefully checking for these before you send in your appeal.

I could be wrong, but I feel that Amazon considers how you submit your photos/video and the required format of that submittal more than the actual message you are stating in your photos/video. It is important to take the method of how the photos/video is given to Amazon or they may accept or not accept your appeal based on this technicality.

Read the Amazon section 4 shown below carefully. Amazon is asking for three to five photos or videos and I would give at least four photos/videos in case Amazon does not feel one of them qualifies. I would not give more than 5 photos/videos. You must make sure each photo or video clearly shows (and is easily readable) either your business card, your business name, or your business logo. Unless you hold the business card right up to the camera, I do not recommend using your business card for it may be too small to show up reaadable in the photo or video. I recommend that each photo image contain only one photo and not a photo collage.

As you can see in my sample room photograph (shown smaller in this article), I printed my business name and logo on an 8 x 11-inch sheet of paper so it is large and readable in the background. In each photo, I showed my business name and business logo making sure the words and logo were extremely readable before I sent it to Amazon. This business name, logo, or business card must be printed on something such as paper and displayed in each photo or video.

If you show a photo or video that displays one of your items, you need to place in your documentation what that specific ASIN is. I would list off the ASIN right above where you insert your photo or video in the appeal document. You can say something like, the below photograph shows ASIN item B09V7CNPCR. Before each photo or video, you can add one sentence with what the seller was doing in the photo/video to give it context. If you do not follow the instruction perfectly, the photo or video will be disqualified. Having a photo or video disqualified could lead to your appeal not being accepted so it is best to get this part right on the first appeal.

If you sell a variety of different types of items that each have a specific handmade production process, you do not have to show photographs relating to each of the different item types and their specific handmade production process. Keep it simple and just select one item, or possibley two and show some of the steps in your process that it is handmade using the requested 3 to 5 photos and an optional video. The seller does not have to prove that every type of product they sell is handmade, just that they are a handmade seller and show an example of how one of your items are handmade.

A video is not required and even if the seller adds a single very short video, I think Amazon just requires a minimum of three qualifying photos. One seller wrote that she sent in five photos and no video and was approved.

From Amazon's email:

"4) Three to five photos or videos that show the production process for items you intend to list. Please note that we cannot accept links to photos or videos stored in personal cloud storage sites such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive. -- Each photo or video must clearly display your business card or feature your business name or logo. For example, in the background or on an envelope, so that we can verify image authenticity. Digital watermarks or logos will not be accepted. -- The photos or videos must be of items that you currently have listed and you must note the ASINs of those items."

Photo/video checklist before submitting:

1. Each of your photos must include a physical piece of paper with a business card, logo, or company name in it that is easily readable on the screen display of the photo.

2. Have at least 3 photos, but four or five may be better.

3. Before you list your photos in your appeal, state in words above the photo what the ASIN number is for all your easily seen sellable items shown.

4. If you choose to have one short optional video, the same requirements of the photos apply to the videos.

5. Send in all your questions/answers, your photos, and video in a single appeal document email and not in multiple emails.

5. It is recommended that you review the following Amazon documents and those specific to your sub-categories to make sure you are compliant. Amazon changes things all the time and this is a good time to verify your wording in this appeal on how your items are handmade do not break any Amazon guidelines/rules. The seller will probably be safe unless they state something that would really bring attention to Amazon like I dropship my items and the final FBM shipping is not done by myself or I have over 20 employees.

While most sellers would not want to review these guidelines at this time, this appeal is important since Amazon can remove your ability to sell in the handmade category and you want your first appeal to be the best you can make it.

I would review the Amazon document "Amazon Handmade: Category listing policies & requirements" which can be seen at the folowing link. (Click link here to see Amazon document).

You also may want to review the Amazon document "Handmade Artwork guidelines" which can be seen at the following link. (Click link here to see Amazon document).

You also may want to review the Amazon document "Amazon Handmade: Terms and Conditions" which can be seen at the following link. (Click link here to see Amazon document).

I would make sure that your items and what is stated in your artist profile follow the Amazon requirements.

6. Any email you send to Amazon will need to be less than 20 MB or it will get kicked back from Amazon's email system. I have heard from other selller that even 18 MB files were too big to be accepted at Amazon. This should be taken in account when submitting videos.

While the words you type answering the Amazon requested questions and web-sized photos will not take up much space, your optional video will. Do not make the photos any larger than they need to be to show well on a display screen.

If you choose to create a video, you will find that any long video, even when compressed, will put you over the 20 MB space limitation. I advise only one video and keep it under 1 minutes or even under 1 minute or the final file size may be too large to be sent to Amazon in your email.

I would recommend that you send the entire appeal in one email and not send a second email with additional videos due to email file size limitations.

Your video does not have to contain your whole process to create one of your ASIN items but show your work location, give a general impression that you have parts used to create your items and that you are not purchasing a final product from somebody. You want to show that you design your own items and, in the end, you create the handmade items that you sell. I would include a photo of the seller in at least one or two photos as well as in the short video. If you do not know how to do a video, make sure you include at least three photos.

Video Compression Software:

For those who wish to include a short video, you can try to use compression software on your video to cut down the file size. I used a random video converter to convert my phone video to a lower quality format which reduced the file size. I have heard that other sellers had this same problem in which the videos caused the email to be over 20 MB and not received by Amazon. Your phone may have a setting to originally record in a lower resolution causing the video file size to be much smaller. Remember to set back your phone to full resolution when you are done.

Here is a video compression instructional video on the free software called Handbreak which can be seen at the following link. (Click link here for Handbreak video).

Here is another video compression instructional video on the free software called Handbreak which can be seen at the following link. (Click link here for Handbreak video).

I used the video converter Freemake, which was free, and I was able to figure out how to make it work. (Click link here to see the freemake video converter).

Here is a web page that lists other free video converters. Of course, they will try to get you to purchase the software. (Click link here to see a list of video converters).

7. On answering the many questions that Amazon has given you, I would not overthink the question and just give simple and short answers to each question. I would not go into any great detail if not needed. The person at Amazon reading this does not care what model number machine you use.

I feel it will be more difficult to show how you create and design your handmade items if much of the work is done on a computer such as photography or digital artwork but the seller will need to come up with a method. It may be easier to show items are handmade with them being more 3 dimensional and constructed by hand.

The Amazon reps that review your question answers are probably not handmade knowledgeable and may not understand the specifics of how a handmade business works across the many different handmade specialty varieties.

The Amazon employees are just looking for specific things to meet their needs (check their boxes) to accept your appeal and declare you a handmade seller or not.

I used a Microsoft Word document that was attached to my email to Amazon. The Word document included my answers to questions as well as my photos. I place my video attachment in the email. You can probably just place your entire response in the email. I copied those questions 1 - 5 (shown under What actions do I need to take?) listed in the document above and then entered the answers under the questions.

When answering the questions, your written response should point to steps or procedures that show that you make your own items and that your items are handmade. You also want to make it clear that you do your own design work as part of the creation of your items.

While I did include some extra external links in the appeal going to my personal web pages that show more information related to my items being handmade, I had all the specific information that they asked for in the appeal document. I do not think that the Amazon employee that reviews these appeals takes the time to go to any external links.

8. Another thing the seller can do is to go into Seller Central and call up the menu option 'Maker Profile'. I would review the section called 'How are your products made' and adjust as needed to be compliant with any Amazon handmade policies. Your 'How are your products made' writeup should show in some manner that your items are handmade. There is also a menu option called 'More about you'. I would review the section called 'About You' and adjust as needed.

Checking your maker profile might not be required or reviewed by Amazon as part of this appeal, but you never know. These sections do directly relate to if your items are handmade or not and this may be the time to review or update them as needed for any rule or compliance changes that have gone on since you originally wrote them.

9. Waiting for an appeal response from Amazon. I did not have to wait long, less than 24 hours to hear back from Amazon on my appeals which are reasonably fast. One seller reported approval in 3 minutes and another in less than two hours. Your times may vary.

I did not get any confirmation that Amazon received my appeal. I would not reach out to handmade support while waiting because I do not believe that the handmade support department handles the appeals. The seller probably does not have access to call the Handmade Integrity Team. Not to worry, if your first appeal is not accepted, you are allowed to appeal again.

The goal of your appeal is to get an email that says you can continue to sell your handmade items in the handmade category. Below is the email response that I received from Amazon. Then have a glass of wine. Just in case you do not see the Amazon response email soon, you can also double check by looking for the email by going to the Seller Central menu option 'Performance reviews'.

Amazon's responce:

"Hello Maker, We appreciate your efforts to comply with our selling policies. We have updated your account with the information that you provided. We appreciate your support and thank you for selling on Amazon Handmade. Sincerely, Handmade Integrity Team"

Feel free to enter your first name and any comments or ask questions. Perhaps you just want to state that you only had to send in one appeal.
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Bob Estrin 

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